Ange Postecoglou admits Celtic are not at the level he wants after a late collapse against Bayer Leverkusen ended hopes of Europa League progress.
Chasing their first ever win on German soil in Europe the Parkhead side recovered from the loss of an early goal to lead 2-1 thanks to a Panenka penalty from Josip Juranovic and a second half strike from Jota.
With eight minutes to play Leverkusen midfielder Robert Andrich snatched his second goal of the night to draw the home side level. Despite an inspired display from Joe Hart, the Bundesliga side sealed three points and top spot in the group when Moussa Diaby struck with three minutes to play.
Ange Postecoglou admitted Celtic are not at the level he wants after Bayer Leverkusen defeat
‘We know we’re not at this level yet but we came here tonight and we were determined to take it to a good opponent and I thought we did that,’ said Postecoglous
‘It was a tough challenge for us they are a very good team and we’re playing away from home
‘We tried our best to play our football but it wasn’t easy. We really hung in there, our players showed great determination and resilience to keep working hard and try not to get away from the way we wanted to play.
Moussa Diaby struck a brilliant goal late on to give the German side the three points
‘We gave ourselves a chance of pulling off a great result but ultimately we couldn’t handle it at the end and they obviously got the two late goals. Disappointing, definitely, disappointing for my players. But at the same time it’s a great learning tool for us in our development.
Celtic needed no less than a point to preserve hopes of a place in the last 32 of the Europa League.
The final group game against Real Betis now a dead rubber in two weeks’ time, back to back wins over Ferencvaros secured third place and a play-off for the Europa Conference League in February.
Andrich scored his second to put Bayer Leverkusen back on level terms on Thursday night
Removing key men Jota, Kyogo Furuhashi, James Forrest and the injured Nir Bitton with 20 minutes to play prompted a late push from the home side in a quest to preserve their 15 game unbeaten home record in the Europa League.
‘I think obviously they were coming at us and they have some real quality in their team,’ added Postecoglou. ‘I just felt that we lost a little bit of our composure at the end and maybe there was some tiredness.
‘Guys coming on didn’t have the impact we wanted because we had some opportunities to create something ourselves and our decision making wasn’t great and we allowed the pressure to build up on us. They are a good team and if you keep giving them opportunities they are going to take them.
Jota smashed Celtic into the lead as the Scottish side fought back from a goal down
‘We were trying to hold on but we just needed to be a bit more composed particularly when we had the ball, to control the game a bit better. But it’s easy for me to say. We hung in there unbelievably well, Joe Hart made some unbelievable saves. We were really resilient defensively but they got the better of us at the end.’
Admitting the Europa Conference League is not where he wants Celtic to be, Postecoglou added: ‘It seems a long way away. My main thoughts are around how do we get to this level? This is where we want to be. It’s not that we are disappointed we are in the Conference League but we want to be competing at this level with these teams.
‘I felt with all the group games we were slowly became a better side at dealing with the best teams in this competition.’
Josip Juranovic scored a cheeky panenka penalty to put Celtic back on level terms
Bayer Leverkusen broke the deadlock though Robert Andrich’s early goal from a corner